Saturday 30 January 2021

Model Week : Making a start

Project #093 is a Messerschmitt Bf109E3 and is the first model build of the 2021 season. After last year's six kits the plan is to go a couple better this year and reach Project #100 by the end of the year. This will be achievable if a steady pace is kept throughout the year. However, what usually happens is that at some stage of the year a project gets stalled!

Friday 29 January 2021

Churches (89) : St Michael, Maxstoke

The parish church of St Michael in the Warwickshire hamlet of Maxstoke dates from the 12th century though the oldest remains are 14th century. The church was established at around the same time as Maxstoke castle and Maxstoke Priory, which is next to the church. Indeed, Pevsner considers that St Michael's may have been the chapel ante portas for the priory [1], in other words a chapel for visitors who were not permitted to enter the Priory.

The church is rectangular with no division between the chancel and nave. The church was made from sandstone. The bell turret is a Victorian addition made from sandstone ashlar.

[1] Nikolaus Pevsner & Alexandra Wedgwood, Warwickshire (Penguin, 1966) p. 350

Thursday 28 January 2021

Apple beige

Apple Computer attracts the kind of obsessive attention to detail from users and fans which no other computer manufacturer has ever achieved. Let's face it, only Apple could drive someone to delve into great lengths to discover what actual colour the company's earliest computers were. They were supposed to be Apple beige but like everything else surviving examples (like my Apple IIe below - this model was a slightly darker beige than earlier Apple IIs by the way) may have shifted in colour after exposure to light. So, what actual colour was the beige these computers were created in during the late 1970s and early 1980s? The article is worth visiting alone for the photo of the Apple Computer beige touch-up paint jar, that must be a very very rare surviving Apple artifact!

Tuesday 26 January 2021

Golden Age (29) : The Murder of my Aunt

This novel by Richard Hull is a rather unusual example of a Golden Age novel. It is a darkly humourous tale of a rather hapless and wasteful young man called Edward who lives with his Aunt in Wales. He desperately wants to live the good life in the big city but needs the money from his Aunt to exist and she does not approve (Edward of course is unable to earn his own living!)

He decides he must kill his Aunt so he can get his hands on her money. He then begins a series of well thought out but ultimately doomed attempts to kill his Aunt. Unfortunately for Edward he isn't half as clever as he thinks he is...

An enjoyable story, if rather odd. It also has a rather interesting twist. Edward is such an awful character it is hard to warm up to him though in the end many things become clearer.

Friday 22 January 2021

Churches (88) : St Werburgh, Derby

Many old churches have closed and been repurposed for other duties though rather unusually St Werburgh is now a church again after closing previously. It closed in 1984 for worship but reopened in 2017. The oldest surviving part of the church is the 15th century tower which collapsed and was rebuilt at the start of the 16th century. The rest of the church was rebuilt in 1699 after flood damage though only the chancel remains from this rebuilding after the church was rebuilt again in 1892-4.

This later rebuilding reorientated the church with the altar being at the North, the chancel was converted into a side chapel. The tower is made from coursed gritstone, the chancel ashlar and the rest of the church rock-faced gritstone.

Dr Samuel Johnson married Elizabeth Porter at St Werburgh's in 1735.

Wednesday 20 January 2021

Model Week : Moving a case

I have moved a bookcase next to the layout to ease access to it. The idea was that it would fit snugly in front of the tram line extension and become part of the "back scene" of that line. To be honest i forgot to take account the skirting board when making my measurements, the bookcase does fit but only just! The layout itself cannot easily be moved due to the tramway and the main board itself which are affixed to the wall, which is a shame as moving a centimetre or so would have helped a lot!

Tuesday 19 January 2021

Golden Age (28) : The Flying Squad

The Flying Squad in this novel by Edgar Wallace is indeed the famous Metropolitan Police unit though don't expect a Sweeney-esque romp here. Instead is a decent if largely unoriginal crime tale set mostly in the dingier parts of London.

Bradley is the police inspector aiming to bring down drug smuggling gangs in the London docks. Linked to the hoods is Anna who wrongly believes Bradley was responsible for her brother's death. As the story progresses her resolve and hatred for Bradley wanes. Naturally they fall in love and head off to... Brazil? 

Although a reasonable read the story does run in circles frequently and would have been much improved with a bit of editing. Some of the characters, especially Anna, often act quite odd.

Monday 18 January 2021

Back to Minworth

I returned to Minworth yesterday to take some more photographs along the canal. The week before my canal walking had been curtailed by a gang of geese but luckily this week they were terrorising someone elsewhere! You can see my Minworth photos here. I also did a local walk on Saturday and discovered the remnants of railway sidings at the oil depot near where I live. I've driven past many times but some things you can only see if you are on foot.

Sunday 17 January 2021

Hi Fella memories

A few weeks ago I began a long term project to clear my Mum's loft out of all the junk that has accumulated up there over the last few decades. There is a lot of stuff up there, much of it I am unclear as to why including dozens of computer magazines from the early 1990s! One thing I did find up there was a children's book my Mum bought me when i was a child many years ago. I did not throw this away.

"Hi Fella" by Eza Zistel is the story of a puppy who gets lost when the box he is being transported in falls over the side of a truck. He has to learn how to survive, at first with a raccoon and then a cat, until he can find his way home. Wherever or whatever that is. It is a delightful story and I am glad it was dumped up in the loft along with everything else instead of being thrown away. Sometimes hoarding is good.

Friday 15 January 2021

Churches (87) : St Cuthbert, Shustoke

The parish church of St Cuthbert, Shustoke in Warwickshire dates from 1307 and was built on the site of an earlier church with some Norman masonry re-used. The church has a West tower, a nave, a chancel and a South porch. A spire was added to the tower in the 15th century. The church was built from red sandstone.

The church was restored in 1873 with the chancel and porch being rebuilt. However, four years later a fire caused by a lightning strike badly damaged the roof and internal fittings forcing another church restoration!

Thursday 14 January 2021

Model Week : Another coach updated

Another coach has been updated with passengers and has joined the active fleet at Birches Green. The Ybbstalbahn coach has replaced the VIR coach which has now into storage. This is one of the railway's oldest coaches and has maken a welcome return.

In other model news the first model kit project of 2021 has begun!

Tuesday 12 January 2021

Golden Age (27) : Thirteen Guests

Thirteen Guests by J. Jefferson Farjeon is a classic example of Golden Age murder mystery, it is set in a country house, mysterious crimes are going on and there is a lot of potential suspects! 

The suspects are the guests at the house of the local Lord, the thirteenth being the unfortunate John Foss who spends most of the book lying on a couch with a twisted ankle. This does allow him to experience some of the odd goings on in the house at night.

These include a vandalised painting, a dead dog and then some dead people. The police in the form of Inspector Kendell then has to unravel the complicated lives of the guests at the house and try and discover just what has been going on.

A decent mystery so full of Golden Age tropes it might approach self-parody at times but a witty good read. The characterisations are well drawn and the investigation ends with a bit of an unusual twist.

Saturday 9 January 2021


For obvious reasons I did not go far for today's adventure. Minworth is just a short drive away (i have indeed walked this far in the past). I took some photos along the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal in a couple of locations. I also found the parish church which is tucked away on a narrow lane and quite easy to miss! You can see my photos here.

Friday 8 January 2021

Churches (86) : All Saints, Bow Brickhill

The first record of the All Saints, Bow Brickhill in Buckinghamshire is from 1185. The original church probably had an aisleless nave and chancel. The church was rebuilt in the fifteenth century. The West tower was added along with aisles on an extended nave. In the seventeenth century the church became dilapidated and was disused for nearly one hundred and fifty years.

The church was restored in the mid-1750s when part of the chancel was rebuilt. More restoration occurred in 1883 when the South porch was added. The church is largely built from local sandstone rubble.

Due to the location of the church atop a hill it has been used for non-religious purposes too. In the Napoleonic war the tower was used as a telegraph station. In the Second World War the tower was used by the Royal Observer Corps.

Wednesday 6 January 2021

The Midlands Photos Blog

We have a new blog to join the family. The Midlands Photo Blog is similar to our Waterways blog and the now defunct Railway Photo Blog in having a new photo published every week day. The Midlands Photo Blog will be concentrating Warwickshire, Buckinghamshire, the West Midlands, Oxfordshire, Worcestershire and Leicestershire (including Rutland). One town or village will be the theme every week with photos of interesting buildings, other built environment and nature. You can see the blog here.

Tuesday 5 January 2021

Golden Age (26) : The Lyttleton Case

The Lyttleton Case is an enjoyable crime novel by R.A.V. Morris. It includes quite a mixture of crimes too as it involves a missing person inquiry, impersonation, grave snatching, kidnap and murder! The novel contains many twists and turns, a complicated and intricate investigation by both the police and (as this is a 1920s mystery) the keen amateur too.

The story opens with the chance discovery of a young man's body and financier Sir Lyttleton, who is called off to the USA urgently but never returns. Sir Lyttleton's daughter Doris and her fiancĂ©, Basil are the ones who raise the alarm. Chief Inspector Candlish has been investigating the dead young man to no avail and moves onto the missing Lyttleton. Lyttleton's body later turns up in another person's coffin and Candlish begins to realise the two cases are linked somehow... 

Not a flawless story but one with a number of surprises and a good pace throughout with a bit of flair. Strangely, despite the promise of this book, Morris did not write any others.

Monday 4 January 2021

Model Week : Bringing the 2020 model making season to a (slightly late) end

Project #92, a Folland Gnat in "Yellowjacks" livery is now completed bar varnishing and brings the 2020 model making season to an end. I know it's January but the model was nearly completed as the new year began so it counts! Its not the best model i've ever made, it was one of those projects where everything seemed to go wrong or break or not fit. Strangely though applying the decals (which is when things usually go pear shaped) went fine. So there you are, 2020 in a nutshell perhaps.

Saturday 2 January 2021

Review of 2020 : Another year of rail travel

In 2019 i began to maintain a spreadsheet of the trains and operating companies i had travelled on throughout the year. Last year (2020) i managed to travel on one hundred and ninety trains which was pretty good going all considering (the total was two hundred and forty in 2019). These figures were for network mainline trains only so not including preserved railways or the London Underground (though moot in the case of 2020 as i travelled on neither!)

So, here we are the graphs for traction and train operating companies in 2020, it can be compared with the graphs for 2019. West Midlands Railway and the Class 323 dominated, though as that is the train and company which operates from my local station Chester Road it is hardly surprising!

Friday 1 January 2021

Review of 2020 : December

The final month of the year and with lockdown restrictions lifted the rail adventures could resume. They started with a trip to Leamington Spa, focusing on the parish church. Next was a trip to Nuneaton, a place i have visited before but never left the station, so i thought it was time to change that. The same could be said about the trip to Bromsgrove the week after, i headed into the town for the first time.

Following Christmas there was just enough time for a trip to Walsall before lockdown (in all but name) descended once again. When the 2021 adventures can begin is not yet known but they will, you can be sure of that!

Song of the month was "no need to hide" by Softwave. Artist of the year was Trevor Something. Let's do all this again next December.